Archives for the month of: May, 2013

This parent posted a comment expressing her outrage about tests that no child passed. She was told to “shut up.” Aside from the fact that this is rude language, it’s bad advice. Parents should speak up. They should organize. Alone, they are powerless. When they organize, like the parents in Texas who created Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment, they can turn a whole state around.

She writes:

“My first grader failed a 72 question benchmark test as did the ENTIRE FIRST GRADE. I begged for something to be done about all the testing. I begged for them to make any testing to be age appropriate. I begged for someone…anyone…to do something about all this RIDICULOUS testing that our children are enduring! I went through the appropriate channels, followed protocol, spoke with teachers, administrators, parents. I was asked to speak to our Assistant Superintendent regarding how I felt. I did my research and I spoke to her based on what I am living on a daily basis with my child. Of course I got some speech about how we are right on target and the manner in which we test in definitely appropriate. So I questioned then why are all the 5-6 year olds in our school district stupid if the testing is so appropriate! No answer. At the beginning of the following year, I was called to the BOE office and was told by my child’s principal and the Assistant Superintendent that I needed to “shut up.” I was told that parents in our community listen to my opinion and that I need to “shut up.” Not once, not twice, but three times…”shut up.”

“So if you think teachers are the only ones getting “reprimanded” for standing up for the rights of children…you are wrong…even parents are not entitled to their opinions regarding their own children because of the ALMIGHTY TEST SCORE!!! IT IS INSANE!!!”

A joint statement by the American Association of School Administrators, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National School Boards Association, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals expressed support for the Common Core standards, but called for more time to prepare teachers, students, and schools for the new standards. Their polling showed growing concern about lack of resources, lack of professional development, lack of public understanding, and an unnecessary pressure to assess students online without adequate preparation. A sizable number reported declining support in their state for the Common Core and the costs attached to it. Mentioned briefly is concern that the widely predicted drop in proficiency rates will undermine public support for public education.

Their bottom line: Slow down and get it right.

Here is their statement:

School Leadership Groups Urge “Adequate Time” to Implement Common Core Standards
The undersigned groups, representing AASA, NAESP, NASSP, and NSBA, release the following statement

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have started to move our nation’s schools in a more positive direction as it relates to ensuring all students are striving toward high, rigorous learning goals. Overall, local school board members, superintendents, principals, and teachers believe in the CCSS and their ability to lead to deeper levels of learning for our nation’s students. In fact, the majority of respondents of a recent NAESP survey of 916 elementary and middle-level principals from 14 early adopter states—states that both adopted CCSS into policy before other states and also enacted ambitious efforts to heighten awareness and implementation of the standards—believe that the CCSS will increase students’ skill mastery across subjects, and provide a curriculum frame for deeper conceptual understanding of math and English language arts.

Undoubtedly, the corresponding online assessments, currently under construction, stand to play a very important role in the education arena, but only if we get it right. With more federal involvement and less state leadership, we are concerned that the momentum of the online assessments could derail the good work already in place through the CCSS and deny the assessments the opportunity to provide the same academic benefits. It is imperative that all educators and education stakeholders who support the new standards initiative have the time necessary to get it right and make it work in schools. We should move with all deliberate speed; in this case, “deliberate” is more important than “speed.”

While assessment has an important role to play as one of multiple measures for evaluating student learning and achievement, the continued reliance on one-time testing diverts attention away from content and the substance of what is being taught. This is especially problematic when the one-time tests are brand-new, recently aligned with new standards, and schools have had insufficient time to prepare teachers to meaningfully incorporate the standards and aligned assessments into their teaching. Principals report that, despite having received some related professional development over the past two years, they largely lack preparation to lead and sustain the CCSS. School district leaders and principals need more time and adequate professional development to manage the change process in schools; evaluate teachers’ use of the new standards during instruction; align schools’ instructional focus; make key decisions on the best types of professional development to support teachers; and develop extended learning opportunities to sufficiently address CCSS implementation. Further, they need sufficient allocation of financial resources to implement this array of school-based activities.

The momentum toward online assessments and the pressure to meet another arbitrary target (implementation in the 2014-2015 school year) should not get ahead of the very real obstacles states and districts face in aligning the curriculum with the new standards and implementing the tests. It is imperative that we all consider the implications for bandwidth, infrastructure, and professional development as it relates to online assessment. We must make adequate time for a thoughtful conversation about how assessments can be used to provide instructionally useful information to schools in a timely manner. This conversation must address the additional time that is needed to allow states and districts to properly address data collection issues, which have dogged states since the inception of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) more than a decade ago. Educators also need time to adjust to the seismic shift in practices and expectations of CCSS and the related assessments. And the conversation must address granting our schools and districts the time to identify, acquire, and implement the essential technology infrastructure and equipment that is sorely needed, especially at the elementary level, to support the delivery of new online assessments. Finally, school districts need time to educate the community, including media, about the reasons CCSS are important; to inform them about the changes in content and instruction the CCSS will bring about; and to manage expectations when early results on new assessments will likely be lower because of higher standards, new instruction and curriculum for teachers and students. Getting this transition right can mean the difference between getting and keeping public and educator support for the Common Core or a loss in confidence in the standards and even the public schools, especially if as expected the first-year scores will disappoint.

If we have learned anything from NCLB, it’s that while assessments and the related data have the potential to be powerful tools in an educator’s toolkit, they easily can be reduced to a simple mechanism of punishment that bears no meaningful impact on student learning. The research tells us that true accountability of student learning is more complex and cannot be reduced to a test score alone. Test scores are but one indicator in robust accountability systems that should be used to inform instruction—not serve as a punitive instrument that serves as the sole driver of state, school district, and schools’ efforts to improve student learning. If the momentum of the testing consortia is to stay on track, federal policy should use tests for information for parents, educators, and policy makers. Further, the tests are necessary but not sufficient for use in teacher and principal evaluation and sanctions for students, schools, or school systems; state and local evaluation systems will never function to build the capacity of educators without sufficient, accurate, and timely data in addition to test scores. The prudent course is to avoid over-reliance on the assessments for federal accountability purposes until the CCSS are fully implemented, instructional materials and professional supports have been offered, schools have the technical capacity to implement the assessments, and communities are informed. Failure to consider this reality will result in the test-and-punish cycle being repeated, with the same disappointing results of NCLB-era accountability.

These philosophical considerations are compounded by real-world obstacles to implementing both the Common Core Standards and the related online assessment. AASA’s latest economic impact survey included items related to the standards and assessments, and the respondents delivered a clear message: State support for the Common Core Standards is holding steady at best, if not declining, and states and districts are woefully lacking as it relates to infrastructure and connectivity capacity to support the online assessments:

• 74% of respondents indicate that the level of funding/fiscal support provided by the state for implementing the Common Core Learning standards is “inadequate.”
• 57% of respondents indicate that the level of professional development provided by the state for implementing the Common Core Learning standards is ”inadequate.”
• With many states more than a year in to the work of implementing Common Core, school-based practitioners reported a very clear trend in DECLINING state support for Common Core implementation:

o 33% indicated State funding support has decreased.
o 23% indicated State professional development support has decreased.
o 31% indicated State leadership support has decreased.
o 23% indicated My state has considered legislative proposals that would decrease state policy/funding support for Common Core learning standards.

• In detailing their state, district and school capacity to implement the online assessments, respondents indicated:

Schools in my state are, on average, not ready to implement the online assessment.
58.4%
Schools in my state, on average, lack the infrastructure to support the online assessments.
50.5%
My school requires additional infrastructure to fully support the online assessments.
46.5%
Schools in my state, on average, lack the bandwidth/connectivity to support the online assessments.
44.3%
My school requires additional bandwidth/connectivity to fully support the online assessments.
35.0%
My school is fully prepared, in terms of funding and bandwidth capacity, to implement the online assessments.
17.7%
My state has adequate bandwidth capacity/the ability to support adequate school connectivity but lacks the funding to fully implement the online tests.
13.7%
My state is fiscally prepared to implement the assessments, but lacks adequate bandwidth capacity/the ability to support adequate school connectivity.
9.1%
Schools in my state are, on average, fully ready to implement the online assessments.
9.1%
My state is fully prepared, in terms of funding and bandwidth capacity, to implement the fully-online assessment.
3.6%

* This analysis reflects 497 responses from 46 states.

About AASA
AASA, The School Superintendents Association, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders in the United States and throughout the world. AASA’s mission is to support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to the highest quality public education for all children. For more information, visit http://www.aasa.org. Follow AASA on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AASAHQ or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AASApage. Information on AASA Children’s Programs on Twitter @AASATotalChild.

About NAESP
Established in 1921, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) is the leading national association representing elementary and middle school principals in the United States, Canada, and overseas. NAESP supports principals as the primary catalysts for creating lasting foundations for learning through policy development, advocacy, and resources for effective instructional leadership. NAESP seeks to advance the principalship and address issues in pre-K–3 alignment, principal preparation and evaluation, and building the capacity of new principals. http://www.naesp.org

About NASSP
The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) is the leading organization of and national voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and all school leaders from across the United States and 36 countries around the world. The association provides research-based professional development and resources, networking, and advocacy to build the capacity of middle level and high school leaders to continually improve student performance. Reflecting its longstanding commitment to student leadership development as well, NASSP administers the National Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society, National Elementary Honor Society, and National Association of Student Councils.

About NSBA
Founded in 1940, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) is a not-for-profit organization representing state associations of school boards and their more than 90,000 local school board members throughout the U.S. Working with and through our state associations, NSBA advocates for equity and excellence in public education through school board leadership. http://www.nsba.org

Two mothers meet at a rally to protest the school closings in Chicago. One mother shows the other her cell phone. It has pictures of children on it. It is a Facebook page.

The second mother explains, these children will be killed if they cross the line into another neighborhood. That’s my son’s picture. He has been marked to die.

She went to the police. They turned her away. She went to school authorities. No one could help her.

EduShyster reports here about a charter school in Utah where the goal of schooling is commerce.

Starting in kindergarten, the curriculum is all about buying and selling:

“HighMark administrators are quick to point out that the school is not a pint-sized business school. Instead, key business concepts and principles are integrated into every aspect of the K-8 charter. For example, “a student wanting to become a dentist will learn about the marketing aspect of dentistry, the pros and cons of opening their own office, entrepreneurship, and what leadership qualities are necessary to hire and supervise a staff.””

This reader echoes a frequent complaint expressed by parents in New York City. Mayor Bloomberg’s choice program gives choice to schools, not students. Sometimes one wonders if he is literally aiming to drive middle-class parents out of the school system and into charters, which will rescue their children from schools that the Tweed gang neglected.

The reader explains her frustration:

“There is No School Choice – Disenfranchising Children and Parents in District 15

School choice is a hallmark of the Department of Education under the Bloomberg/Tweed regime in New York City. But last week with the arrival of middle school placement letters in District 15, Brooklyn, it was made painfully clear to everyone, the choice is not ours, but theirs. My son, along with other boys from our high achieving elementary school was placed in a school that nobody chose. He was placed in a school where only 24% of the students read at grade level, in DOE parlance, a failing school. It is also a school without a rich curriculum of art and music. It is a school that has been forced to share space with other schools including the most recent encroachment of the Eva Moskowitz’s Success Charter Chain. Other students from across the district met the same fate. Boys from one successful elementary school were placed in a middle school where 17% of the children read at grade level and whose mission is to serve at risk children – exactly not the child now being sent there. Does this sound like choice by anyone’s definition?

What does the newly appointed 27-year-old Chief Operating Officer of the DOE do to earn his $202,000 salary? Are we to believe this is all the result of incompetence on the part of Tweed or is it something worse – deliberate mismanagement? One would think that they were intent on driving away families. Indeed, some families of means have already jumped ship. There are plenty of private schools if you have the money.

There is a huge disparity between schools in the district. Some are more desirable than others for good reason – some have a comprehensive curriculum of art, music, dance; others offer little in the way of arts. Some have reputations of being safe, others for violence and bullying. These are not the schools where parents want to send their children. To be clear – I believe that all children deserve to go to safe schools where there is a comprehensive arts program. And I would hope that no child in any school would be bullied or intimidated, but sadly we know that is not the case.

Children who come from crime-ridden neighborhoods and from families that suffer under the stresses of poverty, racism and discrimination, tend to need extra support, a fact that Tweed has yet to comprehend. They have yet to figure out that all this sorting and stacking of children has not improved schools, that we should not relegate low achieving students to one school and high achieving ones to another. Undoubtedly it would be better to have a mix of students with varying skills in a well-funded school with a comprehensive curriculum and a supported staff. This would go a long way towards bringing up those precious test scores. But perhaps it is a deeper problem. Are there too many children living in poverty? Too many children feeling the impact of discrimination and racism? Too many problems that the Tweed is ill-equipped to deal with and therefore chooses to ignore?

The dearth of successful schools for all children is a failure of leadership, vision and planning on the part of the men and women who run the New York City Department of Education. However, in this age of accountability, I suppose all the blame lies with the one man who has had twelve years to right all that was wrong with the system, Michael Bloomberg.

No achievement gap has been closed. No high level of proficiency for all students has been reached. How can it be that 12 years into Bloomberg’s reform agenda we still have schools in which a mere 20% of students can read at grade level? And now we know the Bloomberg administration doesn’t know how to count. In one popular middle school 1,300 students applied for 320 seats, at another smaller school, 1,000 applied for 180 seats. Clearly we need more middle school seats in the district. This situation did not develop overnight. Bloomberg and his minions at Tweed had years to develop new schools or to expand existing successful elementary schools. And no, the two new charter schools in the district are not the answer.

Parents have been left out of this process as they are left out of all decisions Tweed makes on behalf of our children. They unilaterally decided to forgo matching students with suitable placements without bothering to consult the parents. We do not even know how this arduous process for ten-year olds works. It began way back in October with middle school fairs, open houses and tours that many of us took time off from work to attend. Neighborhood middle schools no longer exist; students must apply to district schools. The application process for these choice middle schools also involves interviews and tests. Focus on fourth and fifth grade report cards is intense. Scores of 3 or 4 on the Pearson standardized tests is a pre-requisite for one of the selective schools. We fill out an application and list schools in order of preference. And then we wait months for results. This year some students got their first choice, some got their second or third and some got none of their choices. No rhyme or reason, and certainly no explanation. This should be a transparent process.

Our public school system has been mangled under the reign of Bloomberg leaving behind many children from all neighborhoods across district 15, and the rest of the city. Children and their families who did everything they are supposed to do and were kept in line with the promise of gaining entry to a “good” school were left behind. And the children who attend those “failing” schools were left behind. We need to organize and make Tweed accountable to us. But how does that happen? Walcott puts in appearances from time to time for photo ops, Polakow-Suransky attends town hall meetings and forums when forced to, but how does a parent actually get to speak to someone in charge at Tweed? I would like them to explain to me how schools under their leadership are improving the education of my child, or anyone’s child.

Wendy Kopp stepped aside as CEO of Teach for America and will devote her time to leading the new international arm of TFA, an allied organization called Teach for All.

Teach for All will bring the TFA model to nations around the world.

Here, Gary Rubinstein checks out the personae of her successors.

One he calls the “bad Wendy Kopp,” the other he calls the “good Wendy Kopp.”

Read the tweets he collected. Tweets are often more telling about a person (if he or she writes their own) than long dissertations.

Andy Hines, a writer and stay-at-home dad, describes his family’s debate about where to send their child to school. They live in San Diego, one of the nation’s best urban school districts, but most advantaged parents shun the neighborhood school. Instead they seek out magnet schools, charter schools, religious schools–anything but the neighborhood school.

Michael Petrilli wrote about the same soul-searching process in his book “The Diverse Schools Dilemma.” Should advantaged parents take a chance on the neighborhood school, where most children are poor and nonwhite? Or should they move to a more affluent district?

This is what Andy Hinds discovered about his neighborhood school:

“Our local public elementary school is a five-minute walk from our house. It has undergone major renovations in the past year, and although it’s not much to look at from the street, the campus is tidy and attractive, with a huge sports field, a brand-new playground, a cute little library, vegetable gardens and whimsical murals and sculptures brightening up the outdoor spaces. The principal is energetic and accessible, the staff turnover is low and the parents who do send their kids there think it’s a wonderful school.”

What’s the problem? Almost every student is poor, and more than half are English language learners.

What did the Hinds family decide? Read on.

Adam Kirk Edgerton is mad. He is mad at President Obama because he acts like a Republican.

Edgerton runs the Upward Bound program at Salem State University in Massachusetts. His students are losing their scholarships. Many students are losing scholarships.

Edgerton writes:

” I woke up mad today because when it comes to education policy, there is little daylight between a national Democrat and a national Republican. Dismantling civil-rights era social programs and replacing them with market-based reforms is what truly brings President Obama and the Republicans together.”

He adds:

“What I will argue is this: a Democratic administration is deliberately funneling funds away from direct services to poor people and towards administrators and consultants and bureaucrats. Race to the Top pays some pretty good grant-funded salaries to curriculum writers in Central Offices. It puts on a good conference (I’ve been to one). What it doesn’t do is teach kids, or shelter them in safe homes, or feed them healthy food.”

As everyone’s personal, confidential information joins that big data warehouse in the Cloud, what are the gains? What are the losses?

A reader sends this comment:

**********************************

According to professor Jason Frand of UCLA Anderson School of Management:

http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/faculty/jason.frand/teacher/technologies/palace/datamining.htm

“Data mining consists of five major elements:

Extract, transform, and load transaction data onto the data warehouse system.

Store and manage the data in a multidimensional database system.

Provide data access to business analysts and information technology professionals.

Analyze the data by application software.

Present the data in a useful format, such as a graph or table.”

From inBloom’s FAQ page:

https://www.inbloom.org/faq

“With inBloom, school districts can bring results back from each of these systems and build solutions that allow teachers to have one system to sign into rather than 30—so all the information they need to help their students will be available in one place. This makes it simpler for teachers to see a more complete picture of student learning and find learning materials that match each student’s learning needs and spark student engagement. It also makes it easier for schools to offer parent dashboards so parents can more easily see what their children are studying and how they’re doing in school.

The way that inBloom is achieving this vision is by building the technology “plumbing” to connect the different tools and systems in use in schools today and enable those products to work better together.”

And finally, from inBloom’s Privacy Commitment:

https://www.inbloom.org/privacy-commitment

“Vendors have no access to student records through inBloom unless authorized by a state or district with legal authority over those student records.”

It is disingenuous, at best, to defend inBloom from allowing vendors access to student databases simply because they themselves do not grant that access. If anyone thinks for one New York minute that the purpose of creating this database is simply for the good of teachers and students then that person is credulous in the extreme.

And how quickly will it unfold that districts with Broad, Bush, and TFA-trained superintendents and school boards with corporate-sponsored members whose budgets have been severely cut by state legislatures and whose coffers are continuously depleted by federal mandates and school “choice” legislation will begin to sell access to “select” vendors to pay for utility bills, teacher salaries, and building maintenance?

The tech marketers who came together to create inBloom are not innocent philanthropists who have no profit-stake in the end product and to claim so is ridiculous.

From inBloom About: History:

https://www.inbloom.org/about-inbloom

“The SLC custom-built all the inBloom software components and has worked with education technology companies and developers to encourage the development of inBloom-compatible applications.”

Those “educational technology companies and developers” have lots of expensive products to sell and it is not a coincidence that this software debuts at the same time that ALEC, the Business Roundtable, the Chamber of Commerce, and the reform foundations are simultaneously pushing very hard to pass laws in all 50 states requiring state departments of education to mandate online learning, online virtual schools, online testing, and adoption of the CCSS which magically requires (see the Special Education Appendix to the CCSS) software that these miraculously philanthropic companies happen to manufacture and sell at great profit margins to the very school districts whom they are promoting the adoption of inBloom. Now that’s a lucky occurrence, isn’t it? Just like the New York State Dept. of Education/Pearson alliance, maybe?

I see that some commenters are accepting that this is a done deal and are saying that we might as well accept it and try to make the best of it. I say nonsense! I echo Linda in saying that we have no valid reason to acquiesce to the data monster at all without a fight. I have yet to see a compelling reason, backed up with real, peer-reviewed research, that proves beyond doubt that this technology and obsession with data and its collection does anything meaningful to help students learn. It is circular logic always: data collection informs teaching, which adapts to teach to the data-collection tests, which reveal which students do well on data-collection tests, which proves that data collection is necessary.

After following this pied piper for over a dozen years we are no better off than we were before. No miraculous changes have taken place. Poverty has increased exponentially rather than been eradicated by all the magical learning that supposedly lifts students out of their generational poverty and our country and its citizens are worse off by any imagined measure than we were before the reform miracles were mandated upon us. How far does this experiment need to go before people begin to realize that we have little more than a naked emperor?

This teacher describes how the testing mania–the evil spawn of No Child Left Behind–has consumed his school without changing the odds against the students. They are still behind and certain to remain far behind.

He writes:

I teach fourth grade in a Philadelphia public school. Though the school has made AYP for the past two years, most of the students are not performing at grade level in math or reading. So, at this school, like most urban schools, the standardized tests have become our god, informing every aspect of our teaching.

For instance I am required to teach reading and math only. If I submit lesson plans with science or social studies or something else, I am out of compliance and will be told to get back into compliance. The principal is a competent and supportive school leader who is simply navigating the academic culture that has developed since NCLB and high stakes testing began. From the district, to the region, to the school, and finally the classroom, every one is under intense pressure to get the test scores up. From day one we are focused on teaching test taking skills. ( and this is in a context where teacher evaluation is not yet tied to the test scores. )

Why is it so difficult to get the students to perform better? I could write a five page blog describing the actual challenges our children contend with that profoundly effect every aspect of their lives, which also happens to include their school experience.

After more than a decade of “academic improvements” and increased oversight and “support”, the student population that has struggled the most, still struggles. Isn’t it obvious by now that we are not addressing the real problems, but are persistently dealing with the symptoms? Where is the real support for our children?

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